Cyndi Lauper at Mill City Nights 10/30/13
Photo by Steve Cohen
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Time was ticking inside the club at Mill City Nights, which has quickly become the house that '80s and '90s nostalgia built. On the foggy Hallows' Eve eve last night it was Cyndi Lauper's turn to regale the restless crowd. They were champing at the bit as Bon Jovi, Prince, and Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" chirped from the speakers, and the front section howled, "Cyndi! Cyndi! Cyndi!"
Eventually, everyone dove into the first side of She's So Unusual, Lauper with much cheer and fanfare. Celebrating the 30th anniversary this month of her hallmark debut, Cyndi unleashed from the cage her deep and resonant voice. She immediately impressed and showed a vast range, reassuring the audience that at 60 she hasn't lost her touch. Her sparkling personality held up the entire evening.
Photos by Steve Cohen
Sporting red velvet dreadlocks, a black gypsy style dress, and a leather jacket with fringes that could have been borrowed from Stevie Nicks or Ozzy Osbourne, Cyndi belted out "Money Changes Everything" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" with a voice that towered over her five-piece band. The couplet invoked anyone in the room who ever danced in front of a mirror with a hairbrush as a microphone to chant along, spill drinks, and embrace in group hugs.
Cyndi's stellar band provided a perfect backdrop of sound that emulated the record near perfectly right down to the melodica solos and plinking synthesizers, which were only slightly modernized. No match for Lauper's high notes, the audience was given somewhat an extended break as some issues with the guitar setup needed to be addressed allowing for Cyndi to unravel some stories of her songs and her early history into superstardom.
In her thick Bronx accent Lauper's infectious personality and punk roots took advantage of the intimate room. "How the fuck are you? Let me tell you a little some some. This album was made in a recording studio. Back then we did our karaoke shit in the clubs. Now they got to do it on T.V. We had music scenes. Like you have here with Prince as the leader. This was before the suits walked in and cookie-cuttered everything."
Breaking into her version of "When You Were Mine," the guitar issues seemed resolved but as the audience fell into the groove much of the rest of the evening would dissipate into more storytelling for each track. I really enjoyed imagining a time when a character like Lauper could invent herself as a cartoon-like persona, embedded in her roots and the origins of the rise in her massive career. However, never at a loss for words, Lauper's charm and personable nature often overshadowed much of the audience's desire for a straight-ahead dance party.
Referencing one-hit wonders the Hooters, her early influences of reggae and Kraftwerk, "I loved them, but I think they hated me!" Cyndi dissected the lyrics to "Time After Time" amid random tangents. She met KISS backstage, who had a unique watch that unwound itself, and her boyfriend/manager who gave her a clock that was so loud it had to be placed in another room.
Photo by Steve Cohen
Like an opera singer, Cyndi's voiced wove in and out of the dual synthesizers, as she thrusted the mic stand to the floor. Counting off "She Bop," which predictably got the dance party going again and featured her distinct laugh and even a recorder solo from Lauper. With numerous props that included a fluorescent light and a mirror ball, the ethereal "All Through the Night" brought an electro vibe to the stage and calmed the crowd once again.
"I got kicked out of Catholic School for political differences," she explained, revealing some of the early stages of her career. "Why oh why was I cursed with such a talent for the ukulele?!" Turning into a most Betty Boop-like voice, perhaps Lauper's biggest influence, she finished off the rest of the album with "He's So Unusual" and "Yeah Yeah" before taking a much needed break.
Returning to the stage with more stories of her songs' origins and demonstrating gratitude toward the audience, Lauper kept the party going with the anticipated theme song to the 1985 kids' movie staple, Goonies. Eating it up with much sentiment, her admirers bounced along as each of her band members, took a solo.
Dipping into more recent material from her Broadway Musical, Kinky Boots, with "Sex Is in the Heel," eventually things came down to a simmer to wrap up the evening. Accompanied by only her keyboard player, strumming her zither for a somber "True Colors," Lauper finished off a truly heartfelt evening.
Finishing up as the audience swayed and gave massive applause, Cyndi continued to thank everyone, "Have Happy Holidays! Thanksgiving, Christmas, be well. Do great things!!"
Critic's Bias: Have always had Ms. Lauper to thank for turning me on to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."
The Crowd: '80s-style revelers who just want to have fun.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Oy, my god. Not ANOTHER story!!"
Random Notebook Dump: Looking and sounding like any band you'd see in the background at a high school dance in an '80s b-movie, openers, Hunter Valentine (from Toronto) managed the thankless task of delivering their slick brand of power rock before the eager crowd dutifully.
Money Changes Everything
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
When You Were Mine
Time After Time
All Through the Night
I'll Kiss You
He's So Unusual
The Goonies 'R' Good Enough
Sex Is in the Heel
Hat Full of Stars
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.